Keeping Business Intelligence Simple

CAN does more than optimize your sales, marketing, customer services, management and strategic planning; we optimize how you learn.  Our job is not to provide you with more information, data or work.  Our job is to provide you with supported recommendations that help you run your business more effectively.  CAN helps you with business intelligence to get the insights you need so you can get back to your life.
CAN keeps business intelligence simple by:

  • No Extra Data Collection: CAN’s systems are designed to only require access to your accounting data, because it is the most accurate data that companies already have.  Any additional data is provided by CAN either through surveys or by using CAN’s databases with data on economic variables, demographics, psychographics, real estate, consumers, and businesses.
  • Implementation: CAN systems are designed to be simple enough that businesses without computers could implement our systems, and businesses with more advanced infrastructure are able to implement using a minimal amount of effort.  We did this because we wanted the success of our systems to be independent of a company’s IT department, software trends, or industry whims.
  • Reporting: We have resisted the temptation to wow you with complicated visualizations and data tables, and instead CAN provides you with just the necessary information to answer your important business questions.

Beacon Client Stories

The following are 4 examples of how CAN’s Beacon system has been deployed to help companies.  When reading this post it will become obvious that CAN’s systems are catalogues of intellectual property that are used to help people sell, market, retain, manage and plan smart.  Since we are constantly developing new technology, surveys and mathematical models it is easier to focus on solving our customers’ needs, instead of on our technology.  At the end of the day no one cares how we do it, they just want solutions to their problems.  Here are some of the solutions we have delivered using our Beacon system:

  • Client Match Making: CAN built a survey to match managers and clients based on personalities, the needs of the clients and the strengths of the managers.  This resulted in increase client satisfaction and high project profitability.


  • Reseller Program: One of our clients had a reseller network to distribute their products.  They competed against other providers to become a core provider of different products.  CAN utilized our Beacon system to determine what would help our client become vendors preferred provider.  The result was a plan that segmented different resellers by what they valued, as opposed to wanted, in new products, marketing support, provider support and compensation.


  • Project Management: One of our clients, an architecture/engineering company, used CAN’s Beacon system to determine how to optimize their project management strategies.  We segmented projects by type of project and type of client to build a model that determines what they should bid on the project, who is the right project manager, and how many employees should be involved.  The model also provided a risk factor for each project to determine what the risk of the company losing money on the project.


  • Feedback from the Field: One of our clients with thousands of salespeople has used Beacon to improve their lead generation process by having their salespeople complete an 8 question survey after each client interaction, and completing a long survey each quarter.  The result is a monthly report of what leads are effective with different segments of salespeople, what types of leads should be generated next month, and whether the leads are delivered and called in a timely manner.

What We Value – CAN's Development Guidelines

At CAN we know the value in writing down our goals, principals and beliefs so that we don’t get sidetracked in the process of building our dreams.  We put our company values at the top of our priority list.  The following are the guidelines that CAN uses in the development of our systems.  We are careful to not let fads, customers, competitors and whims derail us from what we know is right. Listed below are our development guidelines.
[+] Creative + Math
Numbers can tell you what is working, and provide recommendations to optimize your processes.  However, math alone can’t create strategic plans, organizational structure, sales strategies and marketing plans.  Therefore, Contemporary Analysis is committed to designing our systems to utilize expertise of your employees, managers and executives.
[+] Results not Software
When you hire CAN you get results not software.  We operate the software, and simply provide you with the information that you need.  Focusing on results instead of software allows CAN to quickly adapt our systems to meet the needs of your business in a rapidly changing business environment.
[+] Built for Change
Contemporary Analysis continually invests in our systems often with monthly updates.  Our commitment to continual improvement allows CAN to keep up with or even out pace changes in the business environment.  This is essential because it will keep your business on the cutting edge.  Staying on the cutting edge is essential for success, because “If the rate of change outside your organization moves faster than the rate of change within your organization, the end is in sight”.

Improve your Sales Calls by a Meeting Contract for Each Call

One of the easiest ways that I have found to improve my sales calls is by establishing a “Meeting Contract” at the start of each call  that states the purpose of the meeting, what each participant is looking for out of the meeting, and how much time the meeting will take.

Using a Meeting Contract has helped me:

  • Improve the customer experience, because within the first minutes of meeting me my clients know that I respect their time by asking them how much time they have and what they hope to accomplish from the call.
  • Gain the complete focus of my customers, because the Meeting Contract clearly states that I have their focus for the agreed upon time. You and your prospective client know exactly when you both can get back to work, email, phone calls etc.
  • Focus my presentation, because I know the client is interested in improving their marketing and they want to know about our past work and next steps.

How to Adopt a New System

I am biased towards systems because CAN builds simple systems to help people work smart.  The other day I noticed that a new employee wasn’t using one of our systems to complete his work. When I confronted him about this he responded, “I am not an systems kind of guy”, and my response what “No one is naturally a systems kind of guy.” I have never met someone that enjoyed using systems at first, because it feels unnatural or the person feels that the system is creating unnecessary amounts of work. All of this is true.
Systems feel unnatural because they force people to work in standard ways, and well designed systems are built to create standards based on best practices. Systems do create more work because they require us to put our thoughts into data that can be stored and transferred, however this allows us to handle more work since we can focus on processing information as opposed to storing information.
Some of the keys to adopting a new system in your organization are:

  • Marketing/Selling the New System: People don’t like change, and it is likely that most of your employees feel that the current system works just fine.  Make sure to market your new system so that your employees understand what problems the new system solves, and what the features of the new system are.  Make posters, videos, websites and emails explaining why it is important to adopt the new system, and host user groups so that people can learn from each and offer ways to improve the system.
  • Single Point of Failure: If you adopt a system, anything that doesn’t happen within the system should be treated as if it didn’t happen. You have to be firm and not backdown. Any exceptions will erode the adoption. When it comes to systems adoption three legs are better than four.
  • End Support for Old Systems: When you officially adopt a new system, cut support for the previous system.  Your new system will be undermined if any employees are allowed to continue in their old ways.

What experiences have you had with adopting new systems? Any interesting tips/tricks?

No Room for the Mediocre

“Make a Dent in The Universe” I love this quote from Steve Jobs. It is was used to motivate a small team of engineers during Apple’s early days, when it was disrupting the way we thought about computers, for the first time. I think this is the mindset that entrepreneurs need to take if they want to truly make a difference. There is no room for the mediocre
Economically speaking new companies shouldn’t exist. There isn’t room for them in the balance of supply and demand. In addition, the incumbents are typically pretty good at what they do, so new companies have to force themselves into the market place. So there is no room for mediocrity. You simply have to be the best.
Also, when designing your website, you also must not be mediocre. When a customer visits your website, they aren’t there to qualify you, they are there looking to disqualify you from their search. This should influence how you design your site, your brand and your copy. Focusing on features and price are the easiest ways to disqualify yourself, and this is where most people focus. Instead your marketing should focus on who uses your product and why. Knowing who uses your product builds trust, and the why focuses potential customers on their own needs instead of the intricacies of your product.

Startups vs. Incumbents

In my experience starting companies, it is nearly impossible to simply outperform or out work incumbent competition because if it is a profitable industry they most likely have unlimited supply of capital, in the form of cash-flow and profits, to reinvest in labor and equipment. You have to select and establish the right competitive advantage. Below are several successful competitive advantage strategies:

  • Unique: Your product or service is so unique that the competition hasn’t thought of it. The danger is that unless your idea is legal protectable or you can keep your property process a secret then your competition can simply copy your product or service. Establishing a unique brand is one way to establish yourself in a way that is hard to replicate. Pharmaceuticals area good example of competitive advantage from legal protection. Coca-Cola is a good example of a competitive advantage by keeping properitary informaiton secret.
  • Understanding: You have a understanding of the market that your competition doesn’t have. This is typically understanding a niche customer need that isn’t being addressed by the rest of the industry. A great example of this is the computer industry. Acer and Dell understand that some people care more about price compared to quality, while Apple and Sony understand that some people care about quality and will purchase a computer at almost any price.
  • Willing: This is personally one of my favorite strategies, because it allows you and your competition to exist peacefully together, as you slowly eat away their business. You are willing to do things or take on jobs that your competition isn’t, because they are either not as profitable, are riskier, or less glamorous. The key to this strategy is to gradually move up the ladder. Ideally you will be able to reduce future competition by owning eventually owning the entire spectrum of jobs, desirable or not.

A fun example of the little guy versus the over funded incumbent is Rocky 5. Check out this video of Rocky vs USSR training style:

How to Increase Your Capacity for Change

Tadd and I have experienced a lot of change over the last three years in business as we have had to learn to run a business, increase our technical skills, and adapt to a rapidly changing industry. Consequently, we have had push ourselves to explore new opportunities, viewpoints, ideas and ways of doing things. In other words, we are constantly working to increase our Capacity for Change.
There is no shortage of brilliant ideas. However, successful implementation is rare. Implementation faces many barriers to success, which include, but are not limited to: politics, complexity, budget constraints, and counter productive habits. However we have found that the most common barrier successful implementation of a brilliant idea are individuals’ capacity for change.  Typically, capacity for change is a function of creativity, resources, intelligence, education, flexibility, values, risk tolerance and beliefs.
Tadd and I have tried to increased our capacity for change by:
Being Patient: Successful implementation doesn’t happen over night. It takes time, and sometimes years. We learned that if our goals were constantly changing we would never be able to accomplish any of them. Now when making goals we try to take a Long-range Focus and set goals carefully and accept that it might take a couple years to accomplish our goal. While we try to have patience we also are constantly looking for incremental progress towards our goals.
Make Space: We have reduced the clutter and commitments so that we can make space for new things. Right now we make space by setting aside time during Saturdays and holidays to explore and implement new ideas. We also try to systemize as much as we can so that we don’t continually have to do the same things over and over, and instead spend our time implementing new ideas.
Develop Horizontal Friendships: Everyone needs best friends. However, having a large number of horizontal friendships can also be valuable. Horizontal friendships are friendships with people that you wouldn’t be friends with naturally. Horizontal friends typically have different interests, lifestyles and personalities. If you spend time with these people they will increase your capacity for change by introducing you to new ideas, products and people outside your normal sphere of influence.
Stumble Upon Ideas: Some of the best advice I ever got was to just read everything I can, and not worry about retaining what I read. This sounds counter intuitive, but my mentor explained that I should make it a habit of stumbling upon knowledge. Everyday I try to scan Twitter and LinkedIn for interesting articles or ideas. Weekly I try to spend time reading a biography, a business book and a technical journal. I don’t care about when I finish, but only that I expose my self to the opportunity to learn something.

Steve Jobs: Parenting Your Startup

“The rewarding thing isn’t merely to start a company or to take it public. It’s like when you’re a parent. Although the birth experience is a miracle, what’s truly rewarding is living with your child and helping him grow up. The problem with the Internet startup craze isn’t that too many people are starting companies; it’s that too many people aren’t sticking with it. That’s somewhat understandable, because there are many moments filled with despair and agony, when you have to fire people and cancel things and deal with very difficult situations. That’s when you find out who you are and what your values are” (Simon and Young 2005).

Calming Irate Customers

This guest post is being contributed by Chris Blanton.
Do you remember the last time you were frustrated while making a purchase? Maybe you were talking with an unintelligible company’s customer service rep on the telephone. Or maybe a retail clerk was arguing with you. Perhaps a returns department refused your refund because you had lost the receipt. Regardless why you were upset, you wanted two things: someone to solve the problem, and a sincere apology for being disrespected.
Whenever you deal with an irate customer you must ascertain and resolve the initial problem while impressing upon them that you are aware of and never intended the perceived slight.
What if you think they’re wrong? Don’t disagree with them. Never argue with a client. You may win the argument but you’ll lose the sale, and the client. Worse, you’ll miss out on all their future business and all the future business of everybody that client ever complains to who chooses not to buy from you. So do your utmost to ensure a client always feels respected. Every shopkeeper knows the well-worn saw: “the customer is always right.” There are times when you have to jettison a client, and in a future post I’ll show how to do that so it doesn’t hurt your reputation.
At the same time don’t dwell on fault. Don’t consider whether the client’s demands are unreasonable, just solve their problem without opening yourself up to liability. How do you do that? Simple: empathize and accept ownership of the problem and bypass fault entirely. If the customer brings up blame, gently guide the subject back to how you’re going to resolve their problem. Recall the best customer service you ever experienced. The agent probably said something like: “I can understand why you feel that way. I’m sorry you were disappointed. Let me make it right.”
That’s all you need to say. No fault finding, just demonstrate concern and empathy. How you choose to make it right is up to you. What if you can’t make it right? One way is to show concession by bartering value. For instance, you could use a version of the discounted upsell – discussed in the previous post – to offer a customer a concession that might solve the problem. You save the sale and, as a bonus add profit to the bottom line. “This widget works great with this gizmo. Why don’t I knock $50 off that normally $100 gizmo for the difficulty?” The client doesn’t need to know the gizmo cost you only $5; the client only sees the $50 concession you made to keep their business and will often be satisfied.

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